Dean Forbes


African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) Conference

Flinders University Victoria Square

Thursday 1st Dec 2011

Professor Dean Forbes

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International & Communities)

Flinders University

Good morning and welcome to Flinders University Victoria Square. We are pleased to be able to host this 34th annual meeting of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific.

Africa is, I believe, of growing importance to Australians.

On a personal note it, certainly is for me. In the last 18 months I have acquired a Liberian-Australian/American grand-daughter and an Ethiopian-Australian grandson. I suspect regular visits to Africa will occupy a fair amount of my time over the next few years.

The Universities Roundtable on Australian Strategic Teamwork for Africa, held in May this year, and hosted by the University of Sydney and AusAID, marked an important new phase for the universities. Flinders sent several people to the meeting, and the follow meeting in Canberra in late November. We found both provided a valuable opportunity to get a broader picture of what the universities that attended the meeting are doing in Africa, and where our future engagement might be directed.

Flinders has active connections with Africa. Most of our staff research collaborations are in South Africa (14), and I am aware of at least one in each of Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

We have an Africa Interest Group, a multidisciplinary working party of academics and professional staff, including from the International Office, who provide advice and guidance on the way in which we engage in Africa. We are trying to ensure a connection between Flinders research in Africa and the Millennium Development Goals, and especially projects that will contribute to capacity building in educational institutions and their communities.

We have some remarkable members of staff involved in projects in Africa.  Dr Tanya Lyons is Convenor of this Conference, and the current Editor of the Australasian Review of African Studies (ARAS) journal. Tanya’s passion for matters African is unmatched. Another example is Julie Robinson, from the School of Psychology, who has driven projects providing books to African communities.

Flinders has around 225 students from Africa studying in Adelaide. Approximately 75 are international students from 15 different African countries. The largest cohort is from Kenya, followed by Botswana, South Africa, Zambia Tanzania and Nigeria. The greatest concentration is in health sciences, followed by social sciences. The African Students Association is an active and officially registered club on campus.

Approximately 150 students are from Sudan and South Sudan. Most are on temporary visas. There was a South Sudan Independence Celebration on campus in July this year when a $2,000 Vice-Chancellor’s bursary for a high performing South Sudanese student was announced.

Finally. We are building institutional links in Africa, and have recently signed an MOU with Jimma University in Ethiopia. It will concentrate on collaboration in community based education programs and research and capacity building expertise in the health and social sciences. Some specific areas of conversation include disability and access to education; gender in population health; poverty alleviation; environmental waste and human risk assessment; and child mortality and HIV/AIDS.

Enough on what Flinders is doing.

I want to conclude by congratulating all those involved in making this Conference happen. I have no doubt it will provide an opportunity for all of us to deepen our understanding of contemporary Africa, and think about how we in Australia and New Zealand can more effectively engage with our African peers and colleagues.